Cilantro : Flavor
Cilantro, the leafy part of the coriander plant is one of the most loved or reviled herbs that I've ever eaten. I adore it now, but I really had never loved it much myself until about 20 years ago when I walked into my kitchen and found a dear old friend making me a fabulous bowl of guacamole for our dinner that evening. Until that night I'd thought of Cilantro as a very musky, moldy substitute for fresh parsley and I didn't have much use for it. But upon tasting Haas's absolutely scrumptious guacamole I became convinced that I'd been completely wrong about the stuff and set about learning to use it in as many ways as possible. Fresh chutneys, Pico de Gallo, pesto, fruit and tomato salsa's...all of these brighten when a bit of fresh Cilantro is added to the mix! Last weekend I made a fresh Chimichurri sauce to serve over a grilled sirloin steak. It could just as easily be served over chicken or even a marinated and barbecued tofu, but with the medium rare steak it was absolutely wonderful. Just take a handful of Cilantro, fresh green onions, garlic , spinach , fresh rosemary, basil, bell pepper, a tomato and an ancho chili and throw the whole mess into a vitamix with some olive oil, salt and pepper. Blend until fairly smooth and pour over a freshly grilled steak before you slice it. If you slice the meat on the grain each slice will have a bit of the sauce and will taste absolutely wonderful!
Fresh Cilantro has a wonderful flavor that's a cross somewhere between celery, mint and mate' and it brings a bit of a refreshing bittersweetness (is there such a word?) to any dish that you use it in. The key with Cilantro is to use it raw in cold salads and salsas, because like parsley it loses it's punch when its been heated. The contrast between Cilantro's intensity and the rich creamy sweetness of a perfectly ripe avocado is exactly what your looking for to stay cool on these hot summer evening. My friends guacamole is a true work of art. Just take several perfectly ripe Haas avocados and mash them with chopped and dried seedless cucumber,chopped fresh red onion, a couple of minced FRESH garlic cloves, the juice of a fresh orange and fresh lime, salt and pepper and at least a cup of torn cilantro leaves. Forget fancy designer versions with blue cheese, bacon, sage and other such affectations....this is what you want guacamole to taste like! Serve it with fresh corn chips and a pitcher of Patron margaritas and you'll find yourself licking the bowl!
I discovered the other night that fresh Cilantro brightens up the saltiness of feta cheese and mixed with small chunks of fresh watermelon, cucumber, red onion, mint, raw pecans and feta makes a superb cold salad that you simply need to dress with a bit of rice vinegar and a touch of walnut oil.
After enjoying the salad I thought to myself...well, how about a martini? Watermelon and Cilantro in a cocktail? Why not! Take several chunks of fresh sweet watermelon and muddle them in the bottom of a shaker with a bit of fresh Cilantro, mint , a pink peppercorn or two and some agave nectar. Add a generous jigger of Hendricks Gin, a tablespoon or two of organic limeade and a bit of branch water and pour the whole thing over some cracked ice in a cocktail glass and Ahhhhh. Perfect for these drenching summer days. You could also use your favorite vodka, but the Hendricks is a completely wonderful brew, infused with cucumber and rose which creates a luscious love spell when mixed with the sweet juicy melon! Just go to http://www.hendricksgin.com/ to learn more! Roxana Vila has woven a wonderfully fragrant Cilantro spell at her gorgeous illuminated journaI. I know that you'll enjoy her luscious fragrant wisdom!
Now for a little British wit from our friends at Hendricks Gin!
Photograph of Cilantro courtesy of: http://www.foodshareregistry.org